Citing a "significant gap" in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's intelligence goals and actual practices, a new report contends the bureau should beef up its ranks of analysts and linguists and better integrate analysis and criminal investigations to improve national security.
"The FBI: Protecting the Homeland in the 21st Century," released Wednesday, acknowledged the agency’s progress on intelligence sharing, one of the recommendations developed after terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. But the report to FBI Director James Comey still found the agency wanting.
The agency needs to better mesh its intelligence collection and analysis with its criminal investigations, it said: "This imbalance needs urgently to be addressed to meet growing and increasingly complex national security threats, including from adaptive and increasingly tech-savvy terrorists, more brazen computer hackers and more technically capable global cyber syndicates."
New threats are rapidly growing in "numbers, scope and lethality," Tim Roemer, one of the report’s authors, said in addressing reporters Wednesday.
Roemer is a former congressman from the Midwestern state of Indiana and a former ambassador to India. Reuters news agency reported him as saying the bureau also needs more support from the White House and Congress.
The report analyzed five threat scenarios, including the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the Boston marathon bombing. In three cases, the crucial tip originated outside the FBI, Roemer told reporters, according to Reuters.
Intelligence support "requires faster progress and deeper execution," the 9/11 Review Commission said in its report.
It also said that, "except for the larger field offices, linguists … are still in short supply. Hiring additional linguists and integrating them into operations should be a high priority."
The report said the FBI in April will roll out a pilot 20-week basic field training course for new agents and analysts that would provide more than "300 hours of integrated training, reinforced with joint practical exercises." The training will be fully implemented in September, the report said.
"Many of the findings and recommendations in this report will not be new to the FBI. The Bureau is already taking steps to address them," the authors wrote. "In 2015, however, the FBI faces an increasingly complicated and dangerous global threat environment that will demand an accelerated commitment to reform. Everything is moving faster."
The commission also recommended that the agency create a five-year strategic plan. Comey, testifying Wednesday afternoon at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, said he first would consider whether overarching problems could be addressed outside of such a plan.
The FBI director has requested almost $8.5 billion for the agency's 2016 budget, up $47 million over its current allocation. The amount would enable the agency to build on its current capabilities, he told the committee.
Comey said he largely agreed with the commission report's finding, which he summarized as " 'you've done great, you're not good enough.' ... We still need to go further."
National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from Washington